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Eli Kirshtein explains why it must have been difficult for the chefs to compete against their respective season's winner.

The problem with having to cook against the chef who won your season is that you thought you left it behind you. You have cut the competitive nature of your relationship down to a minimum, with the only exception being the occasional and incidental public cook-off that may occur. But really no head-to-head challenges of any real substance or consequence. You have built really strong relationships with these chefs over time and would even be willing to say they are your friends, having to go face-off in that aggressive format must be really difficult for both sides.

While the chefs who are still in the running for the title are in a very competitive state of mind, the winners might be in a bit more of a daze. Due to the secrecy of the whole process, I can assure you that none of the winners knew what the challenge was until the day of Quickfire. I would also say that it was very important to put the $10,000 bounty on the challenge, if they hadn’t it wouldn’t mean as much to the winners and there wouldn’t have been as much of a competitive edge to their cooking. It was good to see all the chefs put such a good foot forward. With the exception of Carla’s underdone rice and possibly the weird outcome of Stephanie and Antonia’s dishes, they all really seemed to cook really well, especially given the ingredients and kitchen afforded to them.

Things go wrong in kitchens all of the time; one of the hallmarks of a great chef is the ability to troubl shoot a wide gamut of problems. It might be anything from a broken refrigerator, to clerical problems, to an improperly cooked dish; a chef has to be a jack-of-all-trades.  But one additional trait of a great chef is to know when you are over your head, and when to ask for help. That is exactly what happened with the fryer during the challenge. Just from seeing what was happening, my professional diagnosis would be a broken thermostat, and there is very little that can be done about that once it gets to the point where it is smoking the way it was. I would have called for help. The chefs were very lucky no one got hurt and nothing got irrevocably damaged.Say what you will about some chefs having gained a slight advantage from starting the challenge from scratch, but some of the chefs who did make modifications did poorly and some did well, conversely some who stuck to their initial game plan did poorly and some did well. Either way, if there was an advantage, no one really capitalized on it to any extreme. I think Gail really hit the nail on the head when commenting about the chefs hitting a wall with the situation. In all the challenges I cooked in, I was always striving to the finish line, I wanted to play like everyday was the Super Bowl. I wanted to use everything I had in me and run out of gas right at the buzzer.  I think the chefs had to dig really deep to find some adrenaline to push through to the finish.

I really am getting more and more excited about the show coming to a close. I feel all of the chefs who made it to the finals have proven themselves up to this point and it can only get better from here. Next week looks absolutely crazy, and I can’t wait to see it!

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